Wendy the whippet, the world-famous uber-muscled canine who made the New York Times and appeared on the Today Show and Inside Edition, has died just short of age 14.
“It’s always hard to make the decision and lose a pet, especially one as kind and sweet as Wendy,” her tearful owner, Ingrid Hansen, said. “I wanted her to go when she was still happy enough, not when she was completely in pain and that’s a very hard decision to make.”
The Central Saanich dog bounded to fame in 2007 because of a rare genetic mutation that made her the Arnold Schwarzenegger of dogs. Wendy was 27 kilograms of rippling muscle. The muscles around her neck were so thick they looked similar to a lion’s ruff.
Wendy was part of a U.S. genetics study on mutation in the myostatin gene in whippets. The National Institutes of Health study reported that whippets with a single defective copy of the gene have increased muscle mass that can enhance racing performance in the breed. But whippets with two mutated copies of the gene become “double-muscled,” like Wendy. She was about twice the weight of an average whippet, but with the same height and narrow head. The study led to a science article in the New York Times, and one in the Times Colonist on June 25, 2007, that was one of the most popular ever on the paper’s website.
Hansen and Wendy were flown to Manhattan to appear on the Today Show and Inside Edition. Television crews came to the farm where Wendy spent her days playing with two poodles. She appeared on TV shows such as Animal Planet Most Outrageous Animals, Weird True and Freaky and National Geographic Wild.
“Wendy didn’t care whatsoever that people were filming her,” said Hansen, who bought the dog from a Shawnigan Lake breeder when she was eight months old. “If she wanted to do something, she would do it. If she didn’t, she would just sit or look away. She had her own personality and life went by her rules, not anybody else’s.”
Obedience was definitely not Wendy’s thing, said Hansen. The muscle mass prevented Wendy from running as fast as other dogs. “And she couldn’t turn,” said Hansen. “It was like turning the Hindenburg. She had a huge turning radius. Other whippets turn on a dime. She had to do this whole huge half-circle.”
Hansen said she will miss Wendy’s quiet presence.
“She never asked for much. She would quietly come and want to be petted, or quietly come and say: ‘OK. Can we do something?’ She would just watch the other dogs while they were doing crazy things and once in a while, she would join in. But she just had this, at times, ‘You are stupid with what you are doing. I’m just going to sit here. I’m above all that.’ ”
Recently, Wendy had been losing weight and muscle mass. She collapsed several times when she tried to run or trot after other dogs. “She was falling down in the house and not wanting to eat,” Hansen said. “I didn’t want her to keep declining in front of me. … I did it for her sake.”
Hansen, who works as a registered veterinary technician, knows it will be hard to return to work this week and be in the same room where Wendy went to sleep.